Roosevelt Lake Reaches Record Levels

Game and Fish hosts media day to help spread the word

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Rapidly rising water levels at Roosevelt Lake, which last week reached record heights -- just six feet shy of maximum -- attracted the combined attention of biologists, hydrologists, forest rangers, boat dealers, fishing guides and a professional football coach April 1 and 2.

The coach, Dennis Green of the Arizona Cardinals, joined the others in a special outing at the lake organized by Arizona Game and Fish officer Rory Aikens.

He said he put together the event because "an epic era of water-based recreation, especially fishing, is unfolding in Arizona thanks to the record runoffs from one of the state's wettest winters on record."

Much to the delight of a crowd of onlookers and media members on hand at Roosevelt Marina the morning of the festivities, Green showed up in a high tech, state-of-the-art bass boat decked out in team colors, donned with a Cards logo and his autograph.

Displaying a friendly demeanor not obvious when he is pacing the Cards sidelines, Green took time to exchange fishing tales with many of those on hand.

He said he was participating in the outing for two reasons -- a rare opportunity to fish Roosevelt and to promote angling among young people as a sport of choice.

"Lake Pleasant is closer for me so I don't get to come here much," he said. "And I want to talk about what fishing can mean (to youngsters)."

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Arizona Cardinals football coach Dennis Green and Pine resident Kay Foster were among those on hand April 1 and 2 at Roosevelt Lake to see firsthand the effects of record runoffs from one of the wettest winters in recent history.

Other guests on hand included Arizona Game and Fish biologist Jim Warnecke, Salt River Project hydrologist Charlie Ester, professional bass fisherman Clifford Pirch, Tempe Marine owner Gary Williams, Tonto National Forest District Ranger Gary Smith and Roosevelt fishing guide Art Chamberlain.

At midmorning, all piled on to a 56-foot houseboat for a tour of the lake and to see first hand the changes that have occurred since rains and spring runoff pushed water heights to previously unseen levels.

During the tour, members of the media -- including two Phoenix television stations -- took the opportunity to interview the special guests for their opinions on what the changes in the lake will mean to the people of Arizona.

The general opinion of Pirch, Aikens and other veteran anglers is that Roosevelt could become one of the finest bass fishing lakes in the west and possibly the nation.

In addition to improving fishing at Roosevelt, the lake reaching capacity will also mean more water for the Valley.

"It's the water Phoenix irrigates with and drinks," Ester told the houseboat-load of media members.

The hydrologist estimates the record lake levels will offer six Valley cities hundreds of thousands of new acre-feet of water.

Aikens also predicts the higher water levels will attract a new legion of weekenders and vacationers eager to boat, camp and enjoy the Arizona outdoors.

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Roosevelt Lake fishing guide Art Chamberlain (right) was among those interviewed by Phoenix television stations during a media outing held April 1 and 2 at Roosevelt Lake.

"Roosevelt will become the outdoor sports center of Arizona," he predicts.

Pirch, who has been fishing the lake since he was in grade school, was amazed how much the lake had grown the past few months.

"I have never seen it this high," he said. "It's almost like a new lake."

Aikens concurred with Pirch's assessment, "the filling of Roosevelt will create fishing opportunities that may be unparalleled in this state's history," he said. "Arizona could become the envy of this fishing west."

In 2004, due to a severe nine-year drought, Roosevelt was at one of its lowest levels since the dam was built in 1911. It was only filled to about 14 percent of capacity.

Today the lake is 91 percent full and could reach complete capacity when the mountain snow melts begin.

According to Aikens, during the years of low level levels vegetation and brush grew wild in the dry lake beds. With those spots now covered by water, the submerged vegetation will give bass, crappie, catfish and bluegill plenty of prime spots to hide during annual spawns.

Warnecke explained that the nutrients that flowed into the lake during from the run-off should help boost fish reproduction and survival.

Following the houseboat tour of the lake, many who participated piled into bass boats for some late afternoon bass fishing. At sundown, a fish fry at the Grapevine group campground attracted those anglers who had been successful. Warnecke put away his A.G.& F hat long enough to serve as camp chef.

Under the stars, the day wrapped up with campfire serenades from several who had brought guitars and other musical instruments.

Aikens dubbed the entire event a complete success saying the event was a great way get the word out about the "new Lake Roosevelt."

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